It was the last weekend of October, in the 2017th year of the modern era, and a self-described media analyst was rooting around emojipedia.org for pictures of cheeseburgers to rile the Internet.
Do we really need to have a discussion about this, author, professional writer and magazine publisher Thomas Baekdal?
Do we, collectively as a species, need to talk about where the cheese in a burger in an emoji is supposed to go?
Could Baekdal’s Conundrum, previously unknown to civilization, not simply vanish back into the void after he ran through his 140 characters limit, unanswered and forgotten like so many tweets before?
No. Of course not. It’s 2017, and so Google’s chief executive responded half a day later.
Pichai might have been joking. But the way he phrased it: “If folks can agree on the correct way.” To place cheese. Or to do anything. Pichai might as well have asked for the correct way to share a baby. He had picked up a burger and cast down a gauntlet.
Oh, we tried our best, of course.
Emojipedia, which indirectly started all this by publishing Google’s new burger emoji before it had even appeared on most phones, attempted to clean up the mess via logic.
The site assembled a chart of the tech giants’ competing Platonic ideals of a burger. Sure enough, Google’s emoji was the only one with cheese at the bottom. Solution?
But lettuce and tomato distribution varied so wildly among the other emoji burgers that you could hardly discern any agreement.
So the site took a poll and found a thin majority preferred cheese on top, above the patty, below the lettuce.
This was a very rational approach. Very democratic. But not a consensus.
Even worse, Emojipedia solicited opinions from digital burger designers and discovered strong factionalization within the industry.
“You never put the tomato directly adjacent to the bread as it makes the bread soggy,” Microsoft’s font program manager told the site. “Lettuce and tomato should be together.”
If we could only agree.
“Google’s positioning of the cheese is blasphemous,” scorned the Verge, echoing the opinion of a woman who once bought a burger in Phoenix to find her cheese unexpectedly bottom-side and penalized that particular Whataburger with a single-star Yelp review.
But — but! — wrote Jeri McNeill in the middle of a 1,900-tweet-deep debate beneath Pichai’s challenge, doesn’t McDonald’s famed Big Mac take its cheese on the bottom?
It does. But how to factor in the Big Mac’s third bun and second patty? Not to mention that the simpler Mac Jr. takes its cheese topside, no tomato, in a pattern that resembles LG’s emoji more closely than Google’s or Apple’s.
We could go on.
We could talk about how nearly three months before emoji entered the equation, Southern Living wrote of a “great debate raging on the Internet” — not about how to place cheese on a burger, but how best to melt it.
But there’s no need. The examples above should suffice to suggest that Pichai’s challenge will prove impossible and that folks will never agree on cheeseburgers or anything else, and will only find more division the more they try.
If you’re in any doubt, consider that the national cheeseburger debate stretched all the way into Monday, when emoji headlines competed for cable news airtime with the latest political furor.
And of course, some took offense to that, too.